G.O.P. Lawmaker Named To Finish Honig's Term in Calif.

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Gov. Pete Wilson of California last week appointed a Republican state senator who has been a teacher and local school board member to finish the term of ousted Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig.

Sen. Marian Bergeson, the chairwoman of the Senate Local Government Committee, does not serve on the chamber's education panel. But she has an extensive background in education issues and close ties to the education community.

Perhaps equally importantly, Ms. Bergeson has compiled a relatively noncontroversial record that could help avoid partisan conflict between the Republican Governor and Democrat-majority legislature over the appointment.

"She knows from firsthand experience what it takes to reach kids and help them move forward in education,'' the Governor said in announcing his selection. "I know of no one better qualified to meet the challenges of education in California and to make our schools whole again after years of fruitless contention.''

If confirmed by the legislature, Ms. Bergeson will complete the two years remaining in Mr. Honig's term.

Mr. Honig was removed from office after being sentenced last month on four felony conflict-of-interest violations stemming from state grants to a parental-involvement program headed by his wife. (See Education Week, March 3, 1993.)

Ms. Bergeson, who would be California's first female state superintendent, has a long list of education credentials.

A former teacher, Ms. Bergeson was for 12 years a board member of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. She also served as the president of the California School Boards Association.

She was elected to the Assembly in 1978 and to the Senate in 1984, and was the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 1990.

Senator Bergeson was twice named legislator of the year by the C.S.B.A. because of her accessibility to local board members, organization officials said.

In the legislature, Ms. Bergeson worked on such issues as school performance and accountability and a revamping of the state's system of awarding teacher credentials.

'Nonpartisan Roots'

In accepting the appointment, Ms. Bergeson stressed her desire to avoid political conflicts. Although the state superintendency is nominally nonpartisan, Mr. Honig was an outspoken Democrat who frequently clashed with Mr. Wilson and his Republican predecessor, Gov. George Deukmejian.

"I intend to return this office to its nonpartisan roots and put our schools back on track,'' she said.

Even so, Democratic opponents last week focused on her vote last year to suspend the provisions of Proposition 98--the constitutional amendment, championed by Mr. Honig, that guarantees 40 percent of the state's general-fund revenues to K-14 education.

A spokeswoman for Speaker of the Assembly Willie L. Brown Jr. said Mr. Brown will vote against Ms. Bergeson's appointment because of that vote and because he continues to oppose the appointment of a Republican to Mr. Honig's former post.

Mr. Brown indicated, however, that he will not campaign against Ms. Bergeson, which could improve her chances in the Assembly.

Ms. Bergeson said she would run for election to the post in 1994 if she is confirmed.

Vol. 12, Issue 24

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